[interview] Strictly 7: James Lewis

Here's FXDB's interview with James Lewis of Strictly 7:

How did Strictly 7 start?

Curran started building these four pedals out of a constant need for them in his recording studio during sessions with bands, as well as his own band Shatter Messiah. True bypass and simple tight circuits are key to what Curran needed and also the sound that players need when he produces their records. Really, Curran was just building these for himself and I though it would make a correct addition to the S7G family. Since Curran has been playing low tuned 7 string metal with Shatter Messiah and Nevermore for years he was already tuning them for the type tones and sounds that my client base is made of, it just made sense.

Curran says he started modifying pedals out of tone frustration. He bought a couple of e-books from Brian Wampler, then started hitting the excellent DIY forums and began building up and developing his own circuits. The inspiration for him is really TONE and purity of the amps tone. Curran has a very nice collection of metal amps, and doesn't want to smear the tone these amps have, he just needs to "push" it a little further than what they already do in terms of gain and saturation.

Where do the name and logo come from?

S7G started exclusively building American made seven string electric guitars, but quickly expanded into 8 strings, 6 strings, pedals, basses, fan fret guitars and basses, as well as 9 strings and soon guitar amplifiers.

Combining the letter S, G, and the number 7 into a very cool and recognizable symbol that marks each guitar, pedal, and piece of gear that we build here in the U.S.

What sets Strictly 7 apart from other builders?

Nothing, all of these pedals boil down to the players that buy them and what they want from a box. Curran wanted to keep the pedals reasonable on the price point, and simple on the knob count, so the guitarists could just fiddle ONCE and have the tone that rocks for them and start to play!!! nothing sucks worse than having to constantly mess with your "sound" instead of just getting to PLAY.

How do you start on a new pedal?

Curran discovers a need for the studio and he starts to work from there. He really only works on the things that he feels need improved for what HE is encountering in the studio. AND if it works in the studio then it is a safe bet that it is gonna work even better for live situations!

How do you name your pedals?

Really simple... we make 7 string guitars, Curran plays 7 string guitars, and he voiced these pedals to work for 7 String guitars. are you getting the hint? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA...

Can you tell us something about the production process?

The production is all in (Curran's) house and just Curran building them. He tried to bring some people in but they made it more work than was fun for him to deal with so he just took it back under his wing completely.

Curran does everything except the engraving of the logo on the pedals. Everything is point to point on perf boards, and then tested out in Curran's commercial studio for noise and functionality. He even powder coats them in his basement and then bakes them in a spare oven at his house. It is very low key and attention to tone/detail that Curran does with these little boxes.

How important is the look of your pedals?

We want the S7G Logo to tie in with the guitars of course, but Curran wanted these pedals to be tough, hence the powder coating. He also wanted them to kind of have a "candy" or "precious stones" shine to them, So he decided the powder coating was the way to get there .

Is parts selection important?

NO, Curran is VERY opinionated on that front, he feels like people are taking advantage of guitar players and their willingness to spend 100.00 on a guitar cable over a bunch of mumbo jumbo bullshit (that is a direct quote by the way). He is in the studio everyday and has had guitar players come in with all of these ridiculous things to "make it sound better" and he tries them out but never hears a real difference on play back. He will admit that there is a lot of truth in certain things (power filtering, or better tube amp transformers), but NOS and all of that just means it has been on a shelf rotting, or leaking for years, and you have a massive amount or tolerance variance that he is not willing to weed through, pay extra for, and then at the end of the day NOT have it improve the tone enough for him to justify a crazy price of $350.00 for a fuzz pedal. He is a stickler for tolerance in components, and always says we build these little resistors and capacitors better now with 50 years of construction experience and reliability to back it up.

Which of your pedals makes you most proud?

That is a hard one. Each pedal does a very specific thing for the guitar player that needs it. That is what makes us proud here at S7G, making something that gets the guitarist closer to playing what they want and not having to worry about getting the tone, or sound, or vibe. Once you got that out of the guitarists head he can just relax and create.

Which of your pedals was your toughest build?

The 7Drive, Curran is always complaining about how tight the board is when he is done. He keeps threatening to put that one over to a PCB just so he can not stress about getting those build quick and clean! HA.

Which of your pedals is the most popular?

It is a tie between the 7Boost, and the 7Drive.

The boost just gets guys excited when they click it on and their eyes light up every time! It is awesome and funny at the same time.

The 7Drive is just a winner of a drive pedal, it does so much to a saturated amp that guys never want to turn it off. But when you show them what is REALLY happening with the pedal on a clean channel they get even more excited about the LACK of heavy coloration. Once dealer from Portugal said that these pedals "truly respect" the tone of the players amp.

Who uses your pedals and for which genres?

Well, Curran has said that tone is the mother of invention for guitar players. He kept needing to modify pedals and all kinds of stuff just to get "close" to what he wanted and what guitar players where asking for in his studio. So he just started researching on the internet and bought a bunch of bits and pieces, wrecked a bunch of stuff and started to hone in on what these low tuning 7 and 8 string guitarists wanted. It is a happy accident that 6 string players like what he is doing with the pedals as well!

There are no famous users that we are aware of. BUT the pedals are pretty cheap so anyone can afford them as far as we can see it.

What does the future of Strictly 7 look like?

Curran has been thinking of discontinuing the 7Dirt, since it is the least popular pedal he builds, The 7Boost, 7Fuzz, and 7Drive are all home runs, because of the nature of what they do. The full on distortion thing is a little harder to get guitar players interested in. He keeps saying he is gonna get a JFET distortion happening with a TON of knobs on it for guitar players to have a "take anywhere" type of pedal that the can plug into a super clean amp and get a raging distortion happening that makes them smile for metal! I think Curran will always build these little boxes for people as long as they keep wanting them. He does them one at a time point to point so his investment is very low and easy to ramp up when we get a slew of orders from customers.

Are you working on any new products?

Curran is still kicking around this JFET thing but he has been goofing off with touring and producing records, so it is a little hard to know. I think he will just kind of drop it in my lap when he has it where he likes it.

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